In the chapter entitled "Rediscovering Biblical Counseling", Macarthur is making the case (quite convincingly) that not only is psychology not a "hard science", its own practitioners admit that the various theories and experimental treatments the field(s) invent are largely hit-or-miss. After quoting several well-known "experts" from the psychoanalytic world, Macarthur says,
"Among therapists there is little agreement. There is no unified science of psychotherapy, only a cacophony of clashing theories and therapies.....One specialist [at a Phoenix conference], Jay Haley, described what he called his "shaggy dog" technique. Evidently he means it is like a fluffy animal that appears to be fat until it gets wet; there seems to be more substance than really exists. This is his approach to therapy:
Get the patient to make an absolute commitment to change, then guarantee a cure but do not tell the patient what it is for several weeks. "Once you postpone, you never lose them as patients," he said. "They have to find out what the cure is." One bulimic who ate in binges and threw up five to 25 times a day was told she would be cured if she gave the therapist a penny the first time she vomited and doubled the sum each time she threw up. Says Haley: "They quickly figure out that it doubles so fast that they can owe the therapist hundreds of thousands of dollars in a few days, so they stop."1
And people will pay upwards of $100 per hour for this "counseling"? In the end, one must have a motivation to stop - but in order to correct the underlying lies and idolatry behind the eating disordered behavior, the motivation must be based on Truth.
This "counselor" clearly cared nothing for the woman he was "treating" (notwithstanding the fact he was able to get her to stop her behavior). Contrast this to the passage I read this morning, the words of Christ:
All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:8-15)
What stands out to me in this passage, Jesus' familiar characterization of Himself as the Good Shepherd, is the affirmation that Jesus cares for His sheep. This is, of course, implicit in the fact that He gave His life for us; but very often in the day-to-day struggle we forget how very much and very personally He cares about us. The followers of Jesus during His earthly ministry knew how deeply He cared about them. Repeatedly, the Gospels make note of His exceeding compassion towards individuals - even those who had yet to become His followers.
Contrast this attitude with the "false" shepherds, who care only about self-protection, reputation, or profit. A good nouthetic counselor is one who takes seriously the calling to be conformed to the image of Christ, and will reflect a Christ-like compassion to his or her counselees. Exhorting a fellow believer on to stronger faith, love and obedience is a solemn duty and privilege; not a job description limited to clergy.
If you are a counselor, be sure your counselees know you care about them and empathize with their plight. If you are struggling and need counsel, be sure it is the Truth of Christ you are seeking - and not the world's "wisdom", which will take your money and leave you emptier than before.
1 (Quoted by Macarthur from Time Magazine's article, "A Therapist in Every Corner", December 1985, p. 59)